From farming stock to lifestyle blocks

Will the phasing out of sow stalls compromise sow welfare?

29-Apr-2013 | Contributed by: JJ McConnachie

  • submit to reddit
Sow stall

Sows that are housed indoors, either in sheds or stalls, will most often be moved to a sow stall for their pregnancy. Most outdoor raised pigs, including free-range and free-farmed pigs, will avoid the use of sow stalls and farrowing crates, but for larger pig farms, sow stalls have long been the easiest way to handle pregnant sows.

As of December last year, sow stall use in New Zealand has been restricted to only the first four weeks of pregnancy. It is part of a long-term plan to remove the use of sow stalls completely by 2015, making New Zealand one of only a few countries to commit to this. 

The phasing out of sow stalls has been largely driven by consumer concern over their use, as the perception of sow stalls is skewed negatively. What the public is not largely aware of is the advantages of sow stalls. Sows are often aggressive, especially during the first four weeks of pregnancy, and when kept in groups are prone to fighting with one another. Separating them during this time protects them and the other sows while also allowing for individual care from the farmer. 

Because sow aggression is primarily in the first four weeks of pregnancy, sow stall use has been restricted to this time. However, with the total phase out of sow stalls looming closer, the New Zealand pork industry has had the challenge of finding a way to stop the use of the stalls, without compromising sow welfare. 

NZPork state that they have been working with the Sustainable Farming Fund “to come up with designs, and management techniques that will deliver the required welfare standards.” They’ve been aware of consumer concern for over a decade, and as such feel that New Zealand pig farmers will be equipped to deal with any potential problems the phase out will incur. Producers planned and built facilities, adapted management techniques, and trained staff to minimise the negative effects of group interactions and aggression within group housing systems.

So will sow welfare be compromised? Hopefully not. With careful planning, nation-wide awareness, and support for the farmers involved, it certainly seems that it can be minimised. 

Related Posts